Wednesday, February 02, 2011

2011 book 37

Karen Russell's Swamplandia!
This first novel by Russell--who wrote a very popular book of short stories a few years ago, which I didn't read--had gotten tons of buzz and seemed like it'd be a pleasantly quirky read, about a girl growing up with her older siblings in the swamps of Florida whose family owns an alligator-themed attraction. But damn, this was really dark. Almost immediately things go downhill--the kids' mother (and the star attraction) dies of cancer, and a Hell-themed amusement park opens up nearby, leading to serious financial problems. Not to mention that older brother Kiwi is desperate to escape their island and go to college, and older sister Osceola communicates with ghosts. Ava just wants everything to stay the same, but her journey is the most troubling. Something in the writing and the atmosphere made me feel like my brain was slogging through a swamp while I was reading--I'm not sure how purposeful that was. And I had some mixed feelings about the ending. But I guess a book has to be good to make me feel so upset. Now I'm going to find something completely cute and silly to read. A-.

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